Cheryl's a Bit Handicapped
. . . she says -- she don't read too good don't spell too hot neither still she goes cap in hand to no one lives all right on her pension in her caravan and cries now that Grandpop's laid out like a slice of night in his hospital cot. By the lake with Grandpop she sat on her hands on the scale- silver jetty and watched him hook the bait. At sunset, fish would popgun out of the waves. The first time she almost left her skin. Later, she waited and waited for the light to live again. Cheryl's at Tech, learning to sew. Tissue patterns fall on fabric like moonlight on her bad dreams. Why doesn't someone seam the sun and cloak it over her? Why isn't she a fish? Stroked -- half-dumb, half-blind -- Grandpop's under the lake and bubbling. Cheryl sits in the ripples with a basket of cottons and every line she feeds is barbed. The sun is setting behind her mouth. Night in the white ward. Cheryl waits, and waits, reeling in the light.
Saffron-coated, surrounded by flowers, in this garden I squat. When I lift my arms, silver phrases float -- holy water onto the faces of my followers. In the heat, how they worship me. How their petals droop, soaking up slippery consolation. I cross my knees under calendulas and my love circles them. Into spinning crystals sacrificially I shudder -- every second I sizzle a bright asterisk above a forehead. Minutes peel and the young dreamers unwrap their colours -- blind to me laughing inside my Buddha belly, my orange Ah-ness, Made in Taiwan . . . They do not see my divinity is dependent on an umbilical cord which snakes under the feet of sky-drugged cornflowers and wide-eyed phlox -- they do not see how in too clear sunlight my prophecies might splinter, falling then as sharp as syringes. No. Behind their backs I collaborate. Something enormous plots their sacrifice. I settle my saffron, hard-planted in her soil. A sudden psalm -- a blessing of dampness, a hiss of bliss . . . I tremble and speak. I shower the flowerchildren with promises of life. Twirling myself into frenzies, I forget the woman with her hand on my tap, watching my budding flock -- preparing to reap them.
Night. A weakly brewed Paris sky. Too few sugar stars. Behind ice windows I am falling back to where it is day -- day like an upturned honey jar over my mother's garden. It is the ripe time -- the family-hiving time -- so in Toowoomba, Australia, under the camphor laurel so huge and darkly vaulted, into white overalls preparing for the rite of robbing bees, Ruth and Arthur disappear. Through my sleep mythical as moonwalkers they follow their smoker as one street away from me under the stony sky of St Gervais-St Protais, now the nuns of the Order of Jerusalem heavily cloaked like arum lilies sway after bone-thin tapers as long as their hidden arms, through a swamp fog of incense toward midnight mass. In one sunset-stained side-chapel today, did a sign dim as a fallen constellation again promise prayers (silent prayers) for the sick, the imprisoned -- and for foreigners? As another year's sweetness is stacked, tier on glimmering tier into the station wagon faded as lichen in the ancient tree's shade -- as my mother's kitchen with wide open windows turns its gaze briefly away from the spilling day and closes instead round this ceremony of strong tea pouring out from a pot hiding its honey glow under a cosy of hand-spun, hand-dyed, hand-knitted sheep-in-a-paddock-patterned wool -- the closed vault of the church leaks none of its secret singing. The thought of it though, ruffles like a breeze through wild lilies. I recall the white feet of the nuns, bony as plucked swallows swooping over cold cobbles -- scalloping softness over hard stone like the mottling of moonlight over the trunk of a lemon-scented gum tree: that paradoxical pillow I always place my ear against in this space between Christmas and New Year, standing silent but offering to any stilled listener, liquid incantations of an inner life. Its pale pillar under summer sky holds heat in its branches and under its bark a busy liturgy now as the falling feathers of the chanting of the nuns float up in a wind lifting over white hives and drifting spacewalking through dreaming constellations of leaves -- stirring up again from the bottom of the world, scents of hidden honey, round all foreigners falling home.
Some of us
We blow our noses, write letters, wish we were more: disciplined, assertive, relaxed and organized. But we've got: a sweet tooth, a credit card and dysfunctional families. We buy: tea towels, airline tickets and shotguns. We need: love, money, a good doctor, lawyer, mechanic, priest and accountant. We get: fireworks and loneliness bombs and promises holidays and cancer the bandage of statistics. So we look at ants and waterfalls, worry about our grammar and lovemaking, while humanly waiting for death or the bus.
A man asleep on the winter pavement next to his bottle of rum. A room full of antiques where the hostess talks about her third husband. The moon is in the sky above gossip and despair. Reality owns more than the rain and the lightning, it toys with our puppet-strings, the teetering scales of give and take. For some hope lights the fuse of choice. For some choice explodes in their face. Sadness and happiness? Well, personally I acrobat between the two. I've read more books than I've had girlfriends. Loneliness is a stubborn fellow, only wants to point you in the direction of your coffin. Sometimes my self-esteem dresses in black, travels third class in my thinking. Sometimes I sit on a park bench and watch the branches of trees wafer the morning light. Each human being caught between time and desire. Cross the continent of a room to say "Hello again" to someone who'll be indifferent. Snail shell, heartbreak. So you blindfold the days with sleep. Fog is fog, not healing. Laundry becomes a mountain. Behind the mountain, a knock. A friend with ear and heart. You talk a river. Dawn. The clock extracts a sliver of laughter. The mirror asks you for yet one more beginning.
I sit at cluttered desk, bathed in moonlight and doubt, waiting for the next line, to give these hours a rudder. The stars are not stars, but questions that I've asked myself. They fall from the sky, enter poems. I have this reoccurring dream of myself fishing but all I ever net is my own heart. I only want to earn my daily bread of images. I love the streets, the teaching streets that shock and nourish. I need no other academy. I look at the people, strolling and in errand. Each a different chess piece until God grows tired and lifts them from the board. Some days we suffer an undone shoelace, some days an undone dream. I look out of the window, watch the moon take the pulse of the river. I sit at my desk, wanting words to take risks, to free all the blindfolded horses in our thinking. I sit at my desk, trying to write poems that even Time will admire
Speak Into Mouth
Speak into mouth, for I want to take you in. Need time I haven't got to bring you home. A smell of you, healthy enough for me. Taunts me is, isn't here. Here is where it should be. Your solid body brushing past as you speak into mouth I can feel hot joy against my eyes and nose, your voice rings true in My mind:so speak into mouth. Breathe yourself into me. Me is where my destiny reckons you should be. Close by , everneccessary. Now you exclude me, so speak into mouth.
Poems from "Mephisto", a work in progress.
1 The Pendulum
Mephisto practised his incantations and eye contact, wiggling in his bonds. His frock coat stained. His top hat dented. Assistants fussed about the knot. Then suddenly, pok! thwack! the trick came off. The upturned udder of the stool lay in the mud. A little bouncing around, not quite a jig, but a dance I'd say, nonetheless a shivery foot the last thing to settle down, like a black tongue. One brogue fell off, plonk. One eye looked a bit tired. Tick, tock, the raggedy body rocked and pirouetted. Folk shrugged shoulders, cupped hands and lit up. No one scratched their arse or scrubbed a hat to shift an awkward itch. Mephisto took everything in. He'd studied regimented goings on like these for donkey's years. The white air cleared and stilled about his face. His features went turnip coloured. Some awkward gasps reminded him to get a bit of exercise now and again. One engineer joked about a cold snap, another, about making a clean break with it all. The air smelled of cabbage stalks and diesel. All around, the audience declined to comment or disperse. It was depressingly banal. Moleskin coats, berets and helmets, some neckerchiefs daintily tied above the glinting imbroglio of eagles' wings and chevrons, they tootled about in the halftoned, moon-faced quackery of the sideshow. The cold street turned whiter still, tank tracks glistened beside the provost marshall. Some picked fluff from pockets, bored apostles of the mesmerist, and then checked out the knackered stool again. The rope. The gibbet. His eyes. His prick.
"There's no shame in it, it's just a hefty contraption of wires and boards, some snide magic from Eliphas Levi and then, yessir!" Next thing, I dropped like a leather satchel on the boards. Kerplonk! The whole fabric shifted and shuddered and one hell of a kerfuffle ensued, until dust settled on the footlights and I realised I'd attained the seventh degree of concentration (once again) or had my head stuck up my arse for a laugh. "There's nothing to it," I said, "a few tugs on the old poker and I'm as right as rain, just give me a minute to set myself down." Then some joker asked to see the whole thing over. "I'm bored with the whole shebang. It's no use farming out miracles if Jansenists like you don't appreciate the task. Watch with Mother'd be all you could grasp of magical invocations, no bleeding metaphysics for you." I pulled my gut in, hoicked up my keks and took a few steps towards the wings. "Bollocks to the lot of you", I said. "Come what may, the puck of your tongue and the flange of your head will keep you amused for centuries. All's language to you, no guessing who fabricated that, more zoo than rue, Count Ugo-fucking-lino." Anyways, my tricks would have to wait a whiles, the pulleys were squeaking and those folk back there in the Theatre of Hate would have no truck with the scenery of this sad lot. The whole apparatus was hackneyed mock Egyptian, and I guess it was then or thereabouts I realised the moral fabric of society was a bit of a jamboree. A fine misleading supper dance of gammy denigration; and the soulless path I'd taken as my own through all the sorry acts, was just a right song and dance of ports and pubs and warehouse nights. Take that time I'd risen like Horus over the gorgeous chitterlings of a weathered crowd in Minsk. I'd rogered the cunts senseless before the curtain dropped. I was gazing back at my long impervious retinue of shadows, of burning fields and books, of cobbled paths of muddy skulls, the balsam of calm in some cell where snapshots of biddies formed an abattoir of grief, or that verdigris on kids in the bloated rivers, when I began to itch once more. Stiffened in sunlight, my words stuck in my craw like a viaticum. It was all a load of self-serving muck and ruin, my time had been and gone, all that's left was a wincing at the vault's impeccable maths, the bending goddess spurned for string theory, no magic in the frippery of these tired bowels. I lifted one foot up, then the other, and swooped off for one more shot at bending the ear of Amazing Stories or shaking up some skanky waif with my fists full of hair.
All aches and pains, Mephisto slumps below the fractured breeze-blocks. Necrosis waiting for the chalk lines of the qartermaster. All night the blam! blam! blam! of tiny sulphur potshots with this gorgeous sniper: a Kalashnikov & messianic grin & girlfriend in the country, "Two train rides, four stops below the pines and vineyards and you're there. The farm in giddy mud and pigs the size of horses." Mephisto hears the monologue and dozes as he understands the cousins there are wrapped (once more) in hessian and sleep in clay beside the bloody well. Mephisto sleeps, taped-up like pimpled poultry. His body draped in polythene, mumbling incantations. Four and six, pick up sticks. Three and eight, burn the gate. His Y-fronts gaping. All porphyouria and plasmodium beside the moaning gunman still. He rubs his eyes with grief and shudders for some ointment and his old official papers. Potsherds lie about the floor like tampered gods. There's wax shapes too, of legs and bellies, hips and heads with horns and discs between and smiles like clinkers. Blots of tar like tiny countries spattered on the lino. What else, let's see: a BIC pen, Oreos and sputum dish. Crampons. A bit of scag. Pretty soon the gunman leaves. A candid shade still bleating on about the grapes last year and winters that could freeze a man if he stopped too long to light a fag or take an urgent slash. Mephisto sleeps. His purple schnozz whistling in the dark. A few of us observe him as the Magus of Attrition. He's quite the regal penitent really. His lips unfastening with cockroaches and lichen. Outside the roof space is all aerials and washing lines. A green moon sits on the mosque like an amoeba. The mandalas of some choppers splutter by as each casts a beam of light on lean-tos and lock-ups. The city clicks with jasper neon as the rat-runs prosper. Mephisto keeps on dreaming of gorgeous prefabs. He dreams of wires and thorn-forests in the dank emporium of his breath. He sees the soot filled mouths. And then, those notes from church bells charge the air with ineluctable longing. The roster of each note a footfall of corpses dancing in the streets, calloo callay! Mephisto tires easily of quadrilles and gavottes, and all the moaning Minnies in the Theatre of Hate. He's wiped out his entourage of shipwrights and chefs with bowel cancer and Nembutals. The room smells of Dettol and fish. Mephisto dreams he's climbing into bed with Louise Brooks. She's startlingly black & white and really quite lascivious. All page boy haircut and cupid's bow lips. His desire's all golems and cabinets, pianos and wicked, wicked fingers, which climb towards some notes.